Bartok, Lutoslawski: Concertos for Orchestra

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COMPOSERS: Bartok,Lutoslawski
LABELS: Telarc
ALBUM TITLE: Bartók, LutosLawski
WORKS: Concertos for Orchestra
PERFORMER: Cincinnati SO/Paavo Järvi
CATALOGUE NO: SACD 60618
This is one of the most detailed recordings of the two concertos that I’ve ever heard. Whether or not it appeals depends on your view of using multi-miking to ‘help’ lines to come through, which it does even more than the Wit recording on Dux (10/05). The cellos at the outset of the Lutos?awski are right in your face, allowing you to hear their vigorous attack and sharp phrasing – a hallmark of the playing in general. Then the horns’ snarls cut through the texture, and the violins enter, opening up an exceptionally wide stereo image. But even if the sound is artificial the performance certainly isn’t, and it’s riveting to hear such tight concentration, whether in the virtuosity that informs most of the work, or in the few more contemplative passages.

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In the Bartók, that same clarity works against the mystery of the opening, and the phrasing is too careful. But what makes the slower music a little prosaic gives the main body of the outer allegros a terrific kick, and brings real character to the ‘Game of the Pairs’ – though here I could do with the balance favouring the wind more. The same in the ‘Elegia’, where the accompanying string interjections are just too forward. And in the ‘Intermezzo interrotto’, the various elements don’t hang together – a matter of ill-matched tempos. For a coherent overall picture in more natural sound, go for either for Eschenbach’s live recording (January’s Disc of the Month), or for Iván Fischer (on Philips) who gets right under the skin of the music. Martin Cotton